State of nature

The state of nature is a concept used in moral and political philosophy, religion, social contract theories and international law to denote the hypothetical conditions of what the lives of people might have been like before societies came into existence. Philosophers of the state of nature theory deduce that there must have been a time before organized societies existed, and this presumption thus raises questions such as: "What was life like before civil society?"; "How did government first emerge from such a starting position?," and; "What are the hypothetical reasons for entering a state of society by establishing a nation-state?".

In some versions of social contract theory, there are no rights in the state of nature, only freedoms, and it is the contract that creates rights and obligations. In other versions the opposite occurs: the contract imposes restrictions upon individuals that curtail their natural rights.

Societies existing before or without a political state are currently studied in such fields as paleolithic history, and the anthropological subfields of archaeology, cultural anthropology, social anthropology, and ethnology, which investigate the social and power-related structures of indigenous and uncontacted peoples living in tribal communities.

The early Warring States philosopher Mozi was the first thinker in ancient China to develop an ideal state of nature as a premise to defend the need of a single ruler in a state. According to him, on that state each person have their own moral (yi:義). As a result, people were unable to reach agreements and resources were wasted. Since his philosophy promotes the actions that leads to the benefit (li:利) of the state, such natural organization was rejected:

"In the beginning of human life, when there was yet no law and government, the custom was "everybody according to his moral (yi)." Accordingly each man had his own moral, two men had two different morals and ten men had ten different morals -- the more people the more different notions. And everybody approved of his own moral and disapproved the views of others, and so arose mutual disapproval among men. As a result, father and son and elder and younger brothers became enemies and were estranged from each other, since they were unable to reach any agreement. Everybody worked for the disadvantage of the others with water, fire, and poison. Surplus energy was not spent for mutual aid; surplus goods were allowed to rot without sharing; excellent teachings (Dao) were kept secret and not revealed." Chapter 3 - 1

His proposal is to unify morals according to a single standard (fa:法) that can be used by anyone: calculating benefit of each act. In that way, the ruler of the state and his subjects will have the same morals, cooperation and joint efforts will be the rule. Later his proposal was strongly rejected by confucianism (especially Mencius) because of the preference of benefit over morals.

This page was last edited on 22 February 2018, at 20:41.
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